The correct answer is NEITHER.
Here is an example of a false label claim to be “FR” or flame resistant. This material DOES NOT meet or exceed ASTM D6413 because you can’t meet or exceed a test method. It has no pass/fail criteria to meet or exceed. It is likely tested by this method and has a short char length but that doesn’t make it FR for any exposure other than a vertical flame test. This is common with import companies which have fallen behind on the research showing that in most flame exposures suits like this will melt into the skin of a worker especially on the face or arms. Most of these companies are ignorant of the standards and just put what someone told them years ago. Some are deceptive and want to give the “market what it wants” as I was told by one company. The deceptive ones call melting materials FR even though they do not meet any standard for flame resistant clothing published in the past 10 years or more. Many manufacturers improperly use NFPA 701 which is for textiles in curtains, wall coverings and etc and according to an e-mail I have from NFPA is NOT designed for use on clothing. I’ll start exposing the offenders. If your company shows up on the blog. Just stop labeling like this and we’ll remove it when you pledge to do so.
This Post Has 8 Comments
Thanks for a timely and pertinent warning. This issue is so prevalent as to be scary. It is amazing that we still see claims such as “OSHA approved” or “meets X or Y standard” when OSHA does not approve, endorse, or recommend products, and as you point out it is impossible to meet a standard describing a test method.
As the prevalence of imported PPE continues to make the market more and more price sensitive it will become that much more important to vet the manufacturers’ claims. Many times I have been approached by a well meaning PPE sales representative touting this great new product that beats all others in the price arena only to have them disappear never to be seen again when I asked them to show me the data. Unfortunately in well over 90% of these cases the test data were unavailable or in most of the rare cases where they were provided did not substantiate the claims. Now more than ever it is important to be an educated consumer.
We see that a lot Ed. Keeping them honest. All imports aren’t bad. This mfg might be ignorant of the standards but people need to be accountable.
Great point here Hugh, test methods vs. standards can be confusing. I like to think of standards as “report cards” for products because unlike a test method under a standard the product must meet minimum performance criteria in order to pass. If you want to be sure you are purchasing or wearing rain wear that meets NFPA 70E and/or CSA Z462 you must ensure the rain wear passes the most current edition of “ASTM F1891” the standard specification for arc and flame resistant rain wear. I would be happy to help anyone ensure they are in the correct arc rated rain wear products that pass ASTM F1891 to help minimize the risk of an incident. Just add me to your LinkedIn network or call (256-226-5055) – Markin Dornan
Hugh, excellent article. in first world countries this is even better managed than it is in other countries. Despite a level of control imports especially have little of no “substantial” backup to claims such a flame and acid retardancy. This places the employer and employee at great risk, and on a path of litigation in the event of an incident. In this process the supplier would have to get involved, and using a reputable company would give you the back up required, good luck with suppliers from elsewhere.
The bottom line I suppose is the protection of the worker, and it remains the employer’s responsibility to ensure that we supply or approve only reputable PPE that is backed by an assured standard and that proof of the compliance can actually be supplied and meets your requirements.
Therefore congratulations on your intiative and I support this 100%!
I too support this initiative 100% – poor labelling can confuse and risk lives. This post makes a great point in that it’s bad news when companies fall behind with current safety risk assessments and adequate PPE for their employees.
Good article, the problem is also creeping in over here in Europe but in a slightly different way with garments being certifed against the bare minimum, for instance complies with FR requirements after 5 washes at 40°c with a line dry. The consumer who does not know better just looks at the price, education of the end users, buyers and sales reps is key.
I see these everywhere. There aren’t even any minimums they meet in the US. They slide them under the radar by citing a test method they can’t pass or fail, as in this case, or they use a textile standard from the 1980’s or they use the textile standard for draperies. I have investigated incidents in which companies who sold these “melting FR” materials who have settled huge lawsuits.
As an ex-PPE product manager focused on protective clothing, I can confirm that mis-labelling and improper claims are a problem with manufacturers and importers. This is true of very large ones as well as smaller ones. Lets say there are dirty little secrets. It can be categorised as incompetence, lack of knowledge, hubris, tolerance to risk, greed etc. There are still people and companies that don’t realise they supply PPE that is designed to protect users. Protective clothing IS PPE! That’s one of the reasons I started by consulting firm. To make sure the products marketed do indeed protect workers.